By Isla Binnie
MADRID (Reuters) – Mexico should stay out of Bolivian domestic affairs after the collapse last month of former leader Evo Morales’s Socialist government, Bolivia’s acting foreign minister Karen Longaric was quoted saying in an interview published on Saturday.
A dispute has been brewing for days between Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Bolivia’s interim leaders over Mexico’s granting of asylum in its diplomatic facilities in La Paz to nine people, including allies of Morales who Bolivia wants to try for sedition and armed revolt.
“We simply ask Lopez Obrador’s government to stop meddling in our internal affairs and to respect Bolivian sovereignty,” Longaric told Spain’s El Pais newspaper.
“Bolivia is not a Mexican colony,” added Longaric, who took up the ministry under interim President Jeanine Añez last month after Morales resigned and fled to Mexico City following allegations of electoral meddling.
The interview was conducted before Mexico reported an incident at its ambassador’s residence in La Paz on Friday, saying Bolivian police had impeded the departure of visiting Spanish officials from the premises.
Longaric said on Friday the officials had been stopped because they were accompanied by masked men deemed to be a security threat. She told El Pais the request for heightened surveillance at the compound had come from Mexican authorities.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it would send a mission to investigate the incident.
In a statement, the Spanish ministry said “the objective of the visit … was exclusively courtesy”, and added it “roundly denies that (the visit) could have been aimed at facilitating the exit of the people granted asylum on the premises”.
Lopez Obrador, a leftist, offered Morales asylum after a presidential election the Organization of American States said was rigged in his favor. Morales has since gone to Argentina.
In Saturday’s interview, Longaric asked what right Lopez Obrador had to question the decisions of the Bolivian people, alluding to what she called his “ideological proximity” to Morales.
“Bolivian interests are not the same as the interests of another country’s president, who only wants to bring political benefit to his associate, his acolyte,” she said.
Mexico says Bolivian authorities have harassed and intimidated its diplomatic staff, and has asked the International Court of Justice to mediate in the dispute.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by David Holmes)